East Scotland sea eagle chick ‘disappears’ on grouse moor

Sea-eagle chick 1 nestLast year we celebrated the news of the first sea eagle chick to fledge in East Scotland for over 200 years (see here).

This year we’re discussing his ‘disappearance’ (in all likelihood his death) in a well-known grouse moor area in the Cairngorms National Park.

This bird was a significant one. He marked an important milestone in the East Scotland Sea Eagle Reintroduction Project, being the first to fledge from a nest there in over 200 years. He was also our symbol of hope, following the news earlier in the year that the nest tree of another pioneering pair had been illegally felled with a chainsaw, bringing their historic breeding attempt to an abrupt halt (see here).

When we blogged about the successful fledging of this young eagle last year, we ended the post with this:

Here’s hoping this year’s pioneering young male manages to stay alive (keep away from grouse moors) for long enough to raise his own family – the next big milestone for the East Coast Project will be Scottish-born sea eagles rearing their own young. Good luck kid”.

He didn’t make it. He didn’t even make it to his first birthday.

He had been fitted with a satellite tag before he fledged, allowing researchers to monitor his movements. In mid-April, the signal from his transmitter stopped. The last signal had come from the North Glenbuchat Estate in Strathdon.

North Glenbuchat Estate has been at the centre of a series of wildlife crime investigations over a number of years. These have included the prosecution and conviction of the then head gamekeeper (in 2006) for poisoning offences; the discovery of a poisoned golden eagle in 2011 (killed by Carbofuran – no prosecution); the discovery of a poisoned buzzard in 2011 (killed by Carbofuran – no prosecution); the discovery of a poisoned bait in 2011 (no prosecution), and the discovery of a dead short-eared owl in 2011, that had been shot and stuffed under a rock (no prosecution). (See here for details of these discoveries).

Not only that, but a number of young satellite-tagged eagles have all mysteriously ‘disappeared’ in this area over the last few years, including one in September 2011, one in February 2012, one in May 2013 and now this latest one in April 2014. Including the poisoned golden eagle found in 2011, at least five young eagles are presumed dead. We only know about these young birds because they were all fitted with satellite transmitters. How many other young eagles have ‘vanished’ in suspicious circumstances in similar black holes across the central and eastern uplands, the heartland of driven grouse moors?

North Glenbuchat Estate was bought by the Marquess of Milford Haven in 2008,  according to the Glenbuchat Heritage website, and he “began an ambitious programme of renovating Glenbuchat Lodge and its dependent properties and improving the grouse moor”.

In 2013, North Glenbuchat Estate became a member of Scottish Land & Estates:

North Glenbuchat joins SLE 2013

Today’s police raid of the estate (reported by the BBC here) is welcome news, although the chance of finding any evidence to link to a suspect is pretty slim, especially if the bird has been shot, as is suspected.

We’re almost at a loss what to say. What can we say that hasn’t already been said each and every time? What words are there to describe the fury, rage, sadness, sorrow and overwhelming frustration about what is going on, right under our noses, in our own countryside? The Untouchables strike again. It is out of control and the Government seems powerless to stop it.

Only they’re not powerless. They’re actually very powerful and they could stop this at the drop of a hat if they really wanted to. The Environment Minister has said over and over again that if persecution continues, he will ‘not hesitate’ to bring in further measures. It’s time to stop hesitating, Mr Wheelhouse – get a grip on this insidious criminality and do what you’re paid to do. No more excuses.

Please email the Environment Minister and demand further action. Email: ministerforenvironment@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

76 thoughts on “East Scotland sea eagle chick ‘disappears’ on grouse moor”

  1. RPS how can a tree be illegally felled? It is surely either still standing or has been cut down!

    [Ed: it was illegally felled. It was supposed to be protected as it had a sea eagle’s nest in it. Had it not had a sea eagle nest in it and it was cut down, that would not be an illegal felling].

  2. Time to not only licence these so-called sporting estates, but repeated offences should mean confiscation of the land as obviously these aren’t fit people to own our countryside.

  3. you need to wonder what kind of country we live in and the evil misguided and stupid people that poison, snare and shoot our protected species and it goes on and on and on – SNH are impotent and police response is mixed at best, the current system does not work and the evil stupid people aint going to change their ways meaning its time to prosecute the estates – hit them financially

    1. Do you live in the country?. If you do you are the misguided persons not beliving what these birds are doing to our other wildlife they need to be controlled

      1. Care to expand? I live, and work, in the countryside so I’ll look forward to your misguided response.

        1. I am not a shooter. I live and work in countryside. I used to have lots of birds at my wild bird feeders now a handful due to sparrow hawk. I used to have red squirrels now none. Witnessed buzzard taking one adult and all young last year. Within this week have noticed 4 oyster catcher nests been raided, this could have been cat but believe to be buzzard

          1. Ok, so apart from the fact that everything you have stated above is natural (and ignoring the fact that the presence of a sparrowhawk is due to you attracting the birds to your feeder, and the conjecture that it is the cause of fewer being seen by yourself, and the same with regards to the oyster catchers), can you please tell me how this relates to the WTE chick? Or the golden eagles? Or the hen harrier? Or the short-eared owl? If you look at the overall numbers, where they should be at and where they are at, some of these species are being decimated (to a much more important level than very local population pressure due to the presence of a passerine hunting predator in your garden, even though your statement above is total conjecture). Does that mean those killing them should be controlled then? The fact is that predator/prey cycles clearly show what happens on a day to day basis, and how species have evolved to cope and live with each other. The fact that there are more raptors around today is due to the fact that some are recovering from the victorian principle of land management, the same one which is unfortunately still being practiced on many of our grouse moors…

      2. Greg, It’s people like you with your attitude to the welfare of our protected species who are one of the main problems our Raptors face, the only thing that needs controlling is the onslaught that our so-called legally protected birds of prey face every day at the hands of the criminal band of grouse shooting estate owners and their gamekeepers. (admin – I suppose you’ll delete the last bit of the last sentence?).

        1. Hi. I’m not a gamekeeper or big landowner. My area is plagued with raptors killing everything. Apart from rspb so called evidence please please get someone who has eyewitnessed any of these crimes taking place please comment. I personally have witnessed birds of prey killing and decimating other protected and native species

          1. Greg ,its called nature its what birds of prey do they cant go to the butchers for meat they have to kill,they dont kill everything they kill to eat,and there are only plenty of raptors if there is an abundance of prey,grow up.

          2. I assume that since the raptors have eaten everything they will soon be resorting to canabalism? Don’t worry, according to your logic, fairly soon you will only have one very big raptor left which will starve to death because all the food is gone.

            Its not the way nature works…is it?

          3. Try reading up on predator prey relationships.
            Of course raptors eat things but they don’t have a harmful effect on the population of other species except in rare cases where that species is in trouble for other reasons.
            No studies support your claims. There is no negative correlation between Sparrowhawk numbers and song birds in general although i seem to remember there is a possible negative correlation with Bullfinches but that again is nor proof that the Sparrowhawk is to blame.
            This is a very well researched subject!

      3. I do live in the countryside, have done all of my 54yrs. Can you tell me Greg, what acts of crime are you attributing to the shot short eared owl? do you not realise that the presence of these birds have a massive impact on tourism and the economy that benefits the communities living and working in rural Scotland and does much more than a few toffs coming up for a weeks grouse shooting and whisky sampling, all that does is line the pockets of a handful of ignorant and debased shooting estate owners. this type of crime does nothing for Scotland’s reputation abroad. there are NO excuses for this ill-informed behaviour, you do yourself no favours by legitimising it. the world is watching, the sooner the moronic people guilty of these crimes are rightfully jailed the better.

  4. Any estate found guilty of raptor persecution should have all sporting activities and events cancelled for a defined period of time and those found guilty in a court of law should lose their firearms certificate and their employment..

    1. There is one Sue. We are asking Paul Wheelhouse to extend the investigative powers of the SSPCA with regard to wildlife crime. Follow @Rosskites on twitter or go to change.org and search for ‘sspca wildlife crime’. You should find it then. I have emailed Mr Wheelhouse tonight to call him to action.

    1. A bit suspicious the Black Isle. Such a sparsely populated area and no suspects….Were they planted? What do rspb do with poisoned birds? Ask them they will not tell. Perhaps they freeze them to use again? What poison was used? Why not tell us?. Also if that many birds were found not decomposed in such small area surely they can’t be endangered. I am not a shooter just realistic.

      1. Greg….the police take the poisoned birds…to the government science lab…where they are tested. All done under secure forensic conditions so that the evidence can be used in court. The police have not said what poison was used.

        You are not being realistic…you are just completely un-informed.

      2. Now you would think Greg that if anyone was trying to ‘plant’ a dead bird (as you suggested) that they would be clever enough to do so in a place where its far more easy to tie the death to a person, i.e closer to a property where a ‘suspect’ lived or worked. And not as in this case place the body in the middle of nowhere. Habitat loss and changes in farming practices are the two biggest causes of wildlife decline, not over predation.

      3. 1. Its not particularly sparsely populated compared to most of rural Scotland.
        2. Poisoned birds go for forensic investigation and, given that they often contain chemicals harmful to human health, are then securely stored or disposed of.
        3. Do the police always issue information on the weapon used to kill someone while an investigation is ongoing? Maybe its not public due to the fact that they do not want to publicise what was used in case the perpetrator still has it in their possession.
        4. The deaths are right in the middle of the heartland of the northern re-introduction, go 20 to 30 miles in any direction and see how many you see… Its also close to one of the feeding stations and, given that red kites often stay together in communal winter roosts, it’s no surprise that there were so many close together.

  5. Greg – the police and not the RSPB will take the dead birds away as they are evidence. I also think it is probably quite easy to tell if bodies have been frozen and then re-thawed, and failing that a DNA sample would easily show that the same birds are not be ‘replanted’ as you seem to be suggesting. I am guessing you are just a troll because a quick internet search would show you that the Kite is still an amber list species and that they are a social species that feed together, that is why a larger number of poisoned birds can be found close together. I’m not sure you know what you’re talking about.

    1. I admit I don’t know. The problem is the evidence, quite worring considering they can’t find culprit. Please someone tell me proven facts. As a troll I cannot see any evidence apart from you so called townies( sorry u called me troll) saying that it must be a gamekeeper.

      1. You do realise that no-one on this site has said it was a gamekeeper? Why did you jump to the conclusion that it could have been a gamekeeper? And finally, why, as a supposed countryman, do you have no idea whatsoever of nature and it’s predator-prey relationships?

      2. Greg, you’re comments have been mildly entertaining, but getting a little boring now. Of course, everybody is entitled to their views but really Greg, grow up. Nobody will ever take your comments seriously unless you begin to offer more educated and researched views and comments but I fear that I can’t see that happening anytime soon, can you?

        Project Raptor is devastated by this latest news of the young eagle going missing. We wait for further news, but fear the worse as we are sure many of us do. RPS said in their blog here that the killers are “out of control”. We agree with this statement and I guess we could actually say that these wildlife criminals appear to be ‘in control’, poisoning, shooting and trapping raptors at will, with little to deter their activities.

  6. First off I’m a shooter – when I hunt I try to be as ethical as I can, I try to hunt & live as sustainably as I can, all very green but that’s the pagan in me. I find the morality & ethics (or lack thereof) being shown with this most recent spate of raptor killings absolutely sickening. It fills me with sense of shame at being a hunter even though I’m in no way involved with the morons that are carrying out the killings who no doubt justify their viciousness in the name of hunting/shooting.

    Hang your heads in shame – you’re a disgrace to any fair minded shooter out there.

    1. Fair minded shooter? What a joke! There’s no such thing. You should be hanging your own head in shame, too.

      1. Flash, I abhor driven grouse and pheasant shooting, the environmentally-destructive land management regimes and all its other vile associated activities, but you have to accept that there are some shooters out there that are not in agreement with the wholesale slaughter on driven shoots, and in that respect they can certainly be classed as fair-minded. There are many that shoot for the pot – a pigeon one day, a duck or a goose some days later.

      2. Troll much?

        I’ll be generous and assume you don’t. With that in mind, please don’t try to take some sort of moral highground. You have no idea how or why I choose to put food on my family’s table: the meat my family eats has not gone through the bovine or porcine equivalent of Auschwitz; it has has not been shrink-wrapped and displayed on a supermarket shelf to be purchased by a consumer that has conveniently cut out the middle man. You also have no idea as to the motivation – moral & spiritual – behind my life choices, why would you?

        So in your world a person that hunts to feed their family (natural to the extent that I’m sitting at a PC typing this response, but hey – we’re not all Sons of Ludd) cannot feel a deep sense of disgust at the killing of a wild animal for no good reason other than it conflicts with a rather shoddy business plan? Sorry to disappoint to Flash but not everyone looks at life through rose tinted spectacles.

  7. Mr Wheelhouse and all the other hooray henry’s in Westminster will do sweet fa as they are all supporters of ‘traditional country pastimes’, like grouse shoots. Time has come for direct action.. Scotland has that lovely open access law btw, walk where ever the fancy takes you.

  8. Another shameful day for the nation of Scotland, another shameful waste of life, and another day of government inaction.

    There was a short piece on Reporting Scotland tonight, with an excellent interview with the RSPB’s Ian Thomson. Let’s say Ian did not hold back on his view as to what was happening on these estates. Well said, Ian.

  9. This lively debate is really encouraging but its far too late in the day for me to add to it, except to say;
    Greg, Greg, Greg…… with reference to your comment; “I personally have witnessed birds of prey killing and decimating other protected and native species” – this is called a ‘food chain’ – which is a vital and necessary part of our Earth’s fragile ecosystem. I teach young children who have a range of complex barriers to learning, they could have pointed this out to you. Nature aint always pretty but it tends to cater for all manner of diversity – if left alone.

    1. A great many folk who post on here and/or live in and understand countryside issues.
      When I hear the “don’t understand the countryside” gambit when used in respect of raptors. I immediately recognise that for what it is …………. A statement to have everyone leave the wildlife criminals to carry on committing crime.

      1. I have noticed a distinction between ‘countryside’, which refers to human exploitation of the environment and implies ownership (farming, sporting estates, recreation) and ‘nature’ which eludes to the planet’s ecosytem. At the end of the day we humans are animals too. We have an innate responsibility to look after our planet and restore its fragile ecological balance, not to shoot, poison or trap an innocent bird for whichever misguided reason. I’m all for hunting for the table if needs must, but for sport or tradition, its pathetic.

  10. I have tried googling for North Glenbuchat Estate…but nothing much is coming up. I do get a lot of references to North Glen estate, Glenbuchat….is this the place? A spot of wild camping might be on the table.

    Incidently, google tells of a director of the North Glen Estate leaving his job on the 17th of this month.


        Document: TM01 – Termination of appointment of director


        Filed on: 17 Apr 2014

          1. You might think that there is a reason, but I couldn’t possibly speculate.

            He’s just going to have to stay at home and look across at the Glen Ogil hills if he wants to stay interested in Grouse Moor management.

            Still….it just leaves that woman who lives down in Hampshire as the sole director. I see that she also runs xxxx xxxxx xxxxx [edited as company docs show her position as secretary ended in 2013]….wonder if he had a hand in that business too?

            Its amazing what you can pick up from these “company information” websites….

  11. Its pretty obvious what happened to this bird and the type of person responsible. The wildlife criminals in Scotland get more emboldened with every passing day it seems

    1. Jimmy, what do you expect, the police, the courts and our government don’t do a damn thing to put a stop to it.

  12. Out of interest with this happening in a National park would that make the national parks authority liable for prosecution through vicarious liability as well as the estate owners.

  13. Can we rely on the police for justice considering their track history? The point has come for some demonstrative action against these estates and others by ‘peacefully’ disrupting their shoots on the ground, maybe that’s the only way for persecution to be addressed now as these estates obviously think themselves above the law.

    [Ed: Have had to edit your comment, slightly :-)]

    1. i hear you, Steven and if true, (i have no reason to disbelieve you) i applaud you.. i too abhor senseless killing but i do eat shot (on the hill) meat, mainly venison and partridge, sounds very posh, but i assure you i am not. the people miscalling you are nothing but hypocrites, most of them as you point out happily go to their supermarkets and buy meat that came from an animal bred in dire conditions for it’s entire short meaningless life. i also keep a few cows on a hill croft in the west Highlands, a far cry from the industrialised butchery, the product of which can be seen in most high streets.. the very same people who are having a go at you would most probably be in favour of the wolf and bear to be re-introduced, i have to admit it is a dream i share but maybe many, possibly because of their townie existence? have lost sight that we humans ARE all a part of nature, i personally would have it no other way. therefore why can they not see that if it is ok for the wolf, the bear, the falcon and even the ‘lowly’ spider to kill prey to nourish itself and sustain it’s offspring, why does the same rules not apply for us humans.. it is sanctimonious to the core to suggest otherwise. i, like you detest shooting for shooting’s sake, shooting as a sport, industrialised farming and any cruelty enacted on animals by those that feel they hold the higher moral ground over these unfortunate beasts….

      1. John, I wholeheartedly agree with you. I truly believe that hunting for the pot and being a conservationist need not be mutually exclusive. To me – it would also seem to be your ethos – and to many others it’s a natural state of being and not something to feel ashamed of – it just “is” if you catch my meaning? I loathe the fact that certain unscrupulous, unethical and unrepresentative estate managers, their employees and perhaps certain farmers are “managing” the land as a business concern while wearing blinkers when it comes to biodiversity.

      2. John, thankfully there has only been the one person to criticise yours (and Steven’s) approach to shooting, which as Steven has pointed out was most probably an imbecilic troll.

        The majority of contributors on this site are quite happy to accept people shooting for the pot, indeed I believe some have suggested that they participate in this way. Sport shooting, if you can call it a sport, especially driven grouse and pheasant shooting, is an abhorrent pastime that should be confined to the history books.

    2. I agree Dave, we have in Scotland a so called freedom to roam. So a few hundred people roaming onto an estate and getting in the way should get there attention. All done without breaking the law of course.

  14. Back to the facts chaps….the landowner here, who of course will know absoloutely nothing about what is going on on his multi-million pond estate/business enterprise/favourite holiday destination?…appears to be closely connected to the royal family..[not the bunch of liverpudlian layabouts who sit around watching TV all day…the other lot]…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquess_of_Milford_Haven

  15. I like every human being should be shocked at the lost of yet another raptor in Scotland, especially one so important as this bird. However this comments pages raises interesting issues of what appears to be a them and us situation. I was born a townie but have always loved and respected the countryside, where I am now lucky to live. It would be lovely to live totally off the land, but in reality most people live in towns, and have no concept of nature and the natural world. Raptors are predators, which means they eat other birds and animals, they don’t know that us humans have marked them as rare and endangered, to them they are just food for them and their chicks. I put up bird feeders and love watching the garden birds, but I also love to watch the sparrowhawk come in. I accept that by putting up the bird feeders I am making an unnaturally large population of garden birds and nature puts in a predator to control it. Raptors are top of the food chain and will only survive where there is plentiful food for them, no food and they move on. I also know that every missing bird cannot be attributed to raptors ; birds and animals die naturally in the wild, its a hard life out there . Starvation, disease, man and other predators such as foxes, martens and magpies have effect. So unless you have seen a raptor carry off every single bird and squirrel don’t blame them for everything. I have shot pigeons & rats, but wouldn’t go on a game shoot, but that doesn’t mean I would stop other people from doing it. I don’t fish , but that sport is probably just as cruel and results in the death of a living creature, but again I would not ell anyone not to do it. Shoots provide employment, income and pheasant & partridges in the countryside if it wasn’t for shoots they would not be there , they are an introduced species. Where I live I am surrounded by shooting estates which are some of the best managed wildlife areas around and full of all sorts of wildlife and many raptors. Our local gamekeepers are passionate about raptors and are proud of birds such as Red Kites being on their land, I have seen a gamekeeper in tears when he found a sick raptor on his estate. Please don’t tar all gamekeepers with the same brush, many young ones coming out of college are passionate about wildlife too. However their wages depend on their estate producing the goods, and how many owners put pressure on them , and of course there are still a few old school ones who think that anything with a hooked beak should die. What must be done is more action taken against persecution, estates should be licensed and penalties placed on them if birds are found, police must act quicker, what is the use in raiding a farm 2 weeks after a signal stopped, all evidence will be long gone now. Prosecutions must take place, and must be severe enough to prevent further reoccurrence .More powers must be given to agencies to investigate and prosecute offenders.
    we are supposed to be intelligent human beings, lets not waste our time complaining about the rights and wrongs of how people live their lives, lets us all work together whatever we believe in, whatever sport we take part in, or where we live and help rid this small minority from the British countryside

    1. Thought provoking post Tracy, but I can’t believe that it is only a small minority, if you are right and it is, then they are obviously very active in what they do. Otherwise where are the hundreds of Kites that are missing from the Black Isle, why don’t I see Buzzards over Aviemore anymore (I used to see many) and why is the Golden Eagle still only at the same level as it was 50 years ago.
      To a certain degree I feel sorry for the few honest gamekeepers, but then again, maybe those few should do more about the many who aren’t.

  16. Just written to the minister for the environment, my MP and my MSP and would encourage you all to do the same. We have to build some momentum and pressure around this ridiculous situation. Many thanks to those running this site for the coverage.

  17. Yesterday I was reading the comments for this post (notably Greg’s) and feeling irritated about people being determined to be outspoken on subjects they know nothing about. Today at work (I work in Dingwall) I had to endure the 20 minute long tirade of a local farmer with much the same opinions as Greg – i.e. the damage raptors do to ground nesting birds… there are too many of them anyway… gamekeepers always get the blame… people don’t know how the countryside works… and on… and on it went. I had to bite my tongue as he was talking to my boss (who agreed wholeheartedly with every word).

    These opinions are quite common where I work, I hear them fairly often. I find it really sickening that so many of the people who are ‘in charge’ of the countryside and everything trying to survive on it are so intent on sterilizing it all. To hear people talk in one breath about raptors being vermin, and then hear them saying that ‘people don’t understand how the countryside works’ would be laughable, if it wasn’t so repulsive.

    1. Yes, that is very much part of the problem. There is a significant group who stubbornly hold outdated and illogical views that cannot withstand scrutiny. That alone would be bad enough, but added to that is an arrogant attitude among some whereby they will decide whether to obey the law. They may have actually convinced themselves that the law is for others and they are above it.

    2. Carrie, these people act as judge and jury of the countryside they decide what is allowed to live and die and it is stuff the rest of us and what we want.

    3. Dingwall, a stones throw from the recent Raptor killing fields where so many Red Kites and Buzzards were poisoned. As you say quite a common opinion of certain types of so-called biased country folk !!!

  18. It could have been taken by another bird of pray, like the buzzard taking the ospray chick. A goshawk maybe?

    1. But surely the transmitter would still have been traceable even if it had been taken by a predator? (Although I don’t know how these things work, or how durable they are).

    2. Chris, I think you have misinterpreted the heading where it mentions chick. The bird hatched last year and was a full-size, free-flying individual, and not a nestling like the Osprey chick taken by the Buzzard. Therefore it is highly unlikely, bordering on the impossible, that it would have been attacked and taken by a Goshawk.

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